Working with Residents’ in Disaster Preparedness (Part 2 in a series)

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This the second in a series of articles on disaster preparedness and how to safeguard your community, save lives and minimize damage.

For manufactured home communities, emergency management experts recommend putting together a committee of residents, with the following minimum responsibilities: 

  • Working with management to develop an evacuation or shelter plan
  • Setting up an emergency notification system for the community
  • Conducting community education programs on disaster readiness
  • Setting up evacuation practice drills
  • Training residents on securing their property before evacuating
  • Maintaining a list of residents with special needs
  • Identifying members of the community with special skills, such as nurses, doctors or others trained in CPR or medical assistance, who could help in an emergency
  • Preparing contact lists for relatives and next of kin

Generally speaking, this committee should consist of :

  • Chairperson
  • Training Coordinator
  • Communications Coordinator
  • Emergency supplies manager
  • Residents with knowledge or experience in financial, insurance and legal issues

Depending on the size of your community, you may also want to appoint Block Captains, who will be responsible for maintaining data on their assigned neighborhoods and also be on call to warn residents in their area about an approaching emergency.  If your community has a large number of pets, you  may want to include someone on the committee to focus on animals.

There Are Two Major Roles For The Committee:

  • Educating and training all residents about emergencies
  • Actually coping with an emergency

As a manager or owner of a manufactured home community, provide the committee with excellent materials to use in doing their work, starting with this series of articles.

Committee Responsibilities:

The chair should plan and hold regular meetings of the committee to review the work that is being done.  He or she should be an active participant in other activities and lead by example.  In case of an actual emergency, the chairman and the community manager will be the center of operations and communications. The chairman can assign duties to committee members, such as maintaining a list of community members with special needs or residents with special skills or expertise.

The training coordinator should be responsible for planning and holding actual evacuation or other types of disaster drills, depending on what potential problems face your community.  For example, if the community has a central shelter that residents can use in case of a tornado, you should have a “mock” emergency alert once or twice a year. Encourage everyone to participate. This will improve their own safety, and it will also help you find out if there are any flaws in the plan, such as an area whose residents cannot reach the shelter quickly or a breakdown in the system used to alert residents.

These drills should also include practice with the notification system.  Audio alarm systems should be tested regularly, and back-up systems should be practiced.  For example, if a phone chain is being used, it should be tried out at least twice a year, to see how long it takes everyone in the community to be notified and to make sure that phone numbers are current.

Similarly, with a door-to-door system, practices will help determine how long it takes to notify everyone, so that adjustments can be made.  In either system, make plans that would allow for some residents not being in the community when notification is needed.  For example, are some homes occupied for only part of the year? Would some residents be at work when you need to notify them?

The communications specialist is responsible for community education.  Regular communication with residents through a newsletter or other publication is a good idea.  In addition to letting residents know about the community’s disaster plan, encourage families to develop their own disaster plans. Although not required by law, disaster plans should be provided to new residents as part of the move-in processing.

The emergency supplies person will work with the community management to establish a storage area for a supply of food, water, medical supplies, communications equipment and other items that would be needed in case a disaster strikes the community, and help cannot reach you right away.

The emergency supplies should be kept in an area that is unlikely to be damaged by any type of disaster. The managers should check these supplies regularly to make sure that they are usable and up-to-date.  As part of their individual family disaster plan, residents should maintain their own emergency supplies, and a way to carry the supplies (a duffel bag or suitcase) in case an evacuation is required.

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